MANCHESTER, September 30- Ashley Cole is relishing an unexpected opportunity to lock horns with former Chelsea team-mate Frank Lampard when Roma take on Manchester City in the Champions League on Tuesday.
Cole and Lampard ended their long and illustrious spells with Chelsea when they were released at the end of last season and it’s fair to say neither expected to come up against the other any time soon.
Former Arsenal left-back Cole chose to continue his career with Italian outfit Roma, while ex-England midfielder Lampard decided to accept an offer outside the European football elite with MLS newcomers New York City FC.
But, with New York’s season not underway until next year, Lampard joined City on loan until January to keep match fit and the Premier League champions were then pitted against Roma in Champions League Group E — setting up the chance for the two old pals to be reunited at Eastlands this week.
“It will be great to play against people like Joe Hart and Lamps. I never expected to play against him. If I am selected and Lamps is selected it would be nice,” Cole told reporters on Monday.
“Everyone knows what Lampard brings to any team, he’s a great experienced player who scores goals.
“He even scored against Chelsea. They probably didn’t like that and it was probably a little bit disappointing for him to score as well.
“But he’s a professional and he has to do a job and that is scoring goals.
“I don’t think Chelsea were wrong (to let us go) – a decision was made, I’m fine with it.
“I had eight great years there and I am really enjoying a new challenge.”
– Indian summer –
Both Cole and Lampard have settled quickly at their new clubs after so long at Stamford Bridge.
The 33-year-old has started four games out of Roma’s five consecutive victories in Serie A, including Saturday’s 2-0 win over Verona.
Lampard, too, has being enjoying an Indian summer with four goals in the last week alone.
Cole admitted there are big differences in Italian football but said he is relishing the challenge of adapting to an unfamiliar environment.
“I’m loving Italy – of course it’s different to the Premier League, most of the players have very good technique and the Prem is fast and furious at times,” Cole said.
“But we play fast, we like to attack, don’t sit back to defend, we have a good mentality and a good manager (Frenchman Rudi Garcia) who is always on at us to go forward and play.
“I’m getting used to it now and really enjoying playing Italian football. Of course I loved the Prem but this is something different for me now.”
Cole insists it is Lampard and City who are favourites on Tuesday, but he believes the pressure could trouble Manuel Pellegrini’s team, who were beaten by Bayern Munich in their opening group match while Roma won against CSKA Moscow.
“There’s a lot of pressure on City, not so much on us but I know they have big players and are hungry to win the Champions League,” Cole said.
“If we win it will make it more difficult for them to catch up and will probably make us top of the group and put us in good stead for qualifying, but it’s going to be a tough game and we don’t want to look too far ahead.”